Controlled Experiments

“Okay, I’m going to hold a small piece of ice against your tooth to test for cold sensitivity. Are you ready?”


“First, I’ll hold it against the right side, which isn’t having any problems. How does that feel?”

“A i’hl ‘old — ah, ulp, a little cold, not too much pain.”

“Good. Now I’ll move over to the left side and touch it against tooth fifteen, where you’ve been having the ache.”


On the plus side, I got my own copy of the X-ray picture which the dentist took. The older work on my upper left-side molars shows up as opaque blobs. Years of dissipation and unmoderated sugar intake, all condensed into a symbolism of metal! And, of course, it’s a picture of inside my head taken with invisible light. How cool is that?

5 thoughts on “Controlled Experiments”

  1. “On the plus side, I got my own copy of the X-ray picture which the dentist took. ”

    I had back problems a number of years ago, and I got an MRI of my lower back. I got a copy of one of the images and almost put it into my thesis, which had to do with the study of inverse scattering problems. Man, those doctors got nervous when I asked them for a copy…

  2. Oh man, I’ve been there. Tooth pains suck. Last time I had one I went in specifically with a strong “rip this fucking thing out of my face” attitude. I don’t have any X-Rays of dental visits, but I have some cool MRI’s of my head. They rule!

  3. “On the plus side, I got my own copy of the X-ray picture which the dentist took. ”

    I just remembered another weird anecdote: Years ago, when I went to get a cavity filled, the family dentist gave me a mirror so that I could watch the whole process (“You’re a physicist, right? You’ll find this interesting.”). He was right, actually…

  4. Gee, I was going to email and ask if you were ever able to get an appointment with a dentist. I see that you were successful . . . or not. Blame your father for this; he was the one who let you drink all that Tang!

  5. I had another variation on the same experiment done: tooth A didn’t feel a thing with a cold Q-tip on it, tooth B went into epic agony, but this time it meant tooth A was dead. So they dug out A’s insides, gave them a proper burial, and put in a structural post and goop to keep bacteria from growing.

    Then, finally, they crowned the tooth and its neighbor for aesthetics or just for good measure. (I don’t have dental insurance — crap!) As a result, I owe my sanity, motor control, and general neurological good health to the fact that dental mercury doesn’t methylate spontaneously.

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